Historical Halifax

Halifax in West Yorkshire has a rich and diverse history, largely shaped by the industrial revolution in the 1800s. This industrial heritage can still be seen in the town today, which now accommodates over 200,000 residents across the Calderdale Borough.

Halifax as an industrial manufacturing centre...

Over the years, Halifax has been at the centre of industrial production, accommodating many industry leading companies and mills, particularly in the textiles trade.

Crossley Carpets, once a world class leader in its field, was founded and based in Halifax (Dean Clough Mill), and also Rowntree Mackintosh (previously John Mackintosh and Co. Limited, established in 1890) still has a factory located in the town, now owned by Nestle. 

Dean Clough Mill is now an arts, business, design and education complex with restaurants and bars, the renowned Viaduct Theatre, and regular exhibitions and performances.

More recently Suma Foods, the largest independent whole-food wholesaler in the UK moved to the Halifax area.  The Halifax Bank (HBOS) also has its roots firmly in the town, and was once the largest building society in the world.

Due to its vibrant history, Halifax has a unique character reflecting its heritage with many relics remaining today, some of which are now considered local tourist attractions.

Halifax Piece Hall, and from trial to execution in 24 hours!

One of the most famous past relics is The Piece Hall in the centre of Halifax. Opened in 1779, the Piece Hall is a unique quadrangular structure originally built as a sales centre for woollen handloom weavers around West Yorkshire.

In 1276, the formidable ‘Gibbet Laws’ were introduced to protect the cloth industry in the area, in particular The Piece Hall. Under this law, any person caught stealing could face trial and execution by decapitation within 24 hours of the crime!

Over 63 executions took place between 1276 and 1650 at the notorious Halifax Gibbet, leading to the phrase “From Hell, Hull, and Halifax, good Lord deliver us!” (“Beggars’ Litany”, John Taylor, 1580-1654)

The Piece Hall has more recently undergone a £19 million regeneration scheme to carefully conserve and transform this fantastic Grade I listed building, into a cultural and commercial hub in the town centre.

The Halifax Minster, John The Baptist and William Herschel.

The Halifax Minster (formerly the Halifax Parish Church) is another impressive landmark in the town, parts of which date back to before 1150 including several tomb stones dating from the 12th Century.

The Minster has an intriguing history, together with some remarkable architecture.  William Herschel, the famous astronomer who discovered Uranus and its moons, was the organist here in 1765.  There is also a legend that the head of John the Baptist is buried here.

Wainhouse Tower, the tallest Folly.

Continuing on the trail of intrigue, Halifax is also home to a 275 foot tower called Wainhouse Tower, which is claimed to be the tallest folly in the world! It was originally built by mill owner John Edward Wainhouse as a chimney for his dyeworks. 

Part way through building the chimney John Wainhouse sold the mill, but the new owner did not also buy the tower structure.  Now no need for a chimney John Wainhouse completed the building as an ornate tower with a striking cupola to the top, with two viewing galleries at each side. 

The tower is therefore a building constructed primarily for decoration and thus earned its folly status.  Today the tower is a public local attraction, open to visitors most Bank Holiday weekends and other special dates.

Square Chapel – the only square Church in Britain.

Square Chapel is another unique building in Halifax, established in 1772. It is the only square church in Britain, and was built in this way to offer an uninterrupted view of the preacher as it has no internal supporting structures.

It has been recently restored into a thriving arts centre including an attractive bar.  There is also a theatre auditorium, with regular performances not to be missed.

Eureka! The National Children’s Museum.

A more recently established attraction is The Eureka! National Children’s Museum, which took around three years to build and cost over £9million.

Opened in 1992 by Prince Charles and packed with innovative exhibitions and interactive learning, the Eureka! Children's Science Museum proved an instant hit with children of all ages.

It has since received over 5 million visitors and was recently recognized as third best family day out in the UK (The Independent, 2007).

Halifax is a fascinating town with many beautiful historic buildings, many of which now accommodate contemporary projects and businesses.   These intriguing landmarks, legends and stories have all blessed the town with a rich and vivid heritage which can be explored and experienced by all when visiting Halifax, West Yorkshire.